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Pipeline for Ag Leaders program supports minority students

new program at NMSU will help underrepresented students like Briza Castro ’19, Imelda Martinez and Naomi Lucero earn graduate degrees and prepare them for careers in the agricultural sciences.

The Pipeline for Ag Leaders program – launched in fall 2022 through a $999,786 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture – establishes a pipeline between NMSU and the California State University, Chico, for minority students pursuing degrees in animal science.

“We’re recruiting, retaining and graduating outstanding students from underrepresented groups to increase their capacity to enter and enhance our nation’s food and agricultural sciences workforce,” says Jennifer Hernandez Gifford ’99 ’01, animal science associate professor and program director.

Students in the program will complete their undergraduate degrees at NMSU or CSU-Chico and continue their education as graduate students at NMSU. CSU-Chico students also will visit NMSU during the summers to participate in research internships or other summer activities in New Mexico.

Hernandez Gifford and her co-principal investigators, Sergio Soto at NMSU and Kasey DeAtley at CSU-Chico, have already recruited students into the program, which runs through 2026. Castro, Martinez and Lucero – all animal science graduate students at NMSU – joined the program’s first cohort in fall 2022.

“Being in this program has been such a blessing,” says Martinez, a first-year graduate student. “I feel very fortunate to have someone like Dr. Hernandez Gifford, who has had such an impact in the field of animal science, guide me through my master’s program.”



NMSU students Briza Castro (from left), Imelda Martinez and Naomi Lucero are part of a new program to support animal science majors from underrepresented groups and to train more minority students for competitive careers in the agricultural sciences.